Sleep and parenting are two things that do not go very well together.
The newborn days are heavy with night feeds, and routines as newborns attach themselves to us. The early years are complete with broken sleep as babies learn how their body clocks work. The primary school years are challenged by vomiting bugs, flu, and chickenpox. The teenage years are host to sleepless nights as our kids navigate new independence. Needless to say, parenthood is an exhausting time of our lives and can significantly impact our physical and mental health. How exactly does a lack of sleep affect us?
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
Typically, the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep to function well. Seven hours may seem achievable, but we know a full night of uninterrupted sleep is not always feasible as a parent.
Our bodies need sleep just as much as air, food, and water. When we sleep, we recharge and reboot our brains and body systems. Our mental and physical abilities are put at risk when this doesn't happen.
We may blame mom brain on the memory fog that accompanies parenthood, but when sleep becomes an issue, and we are not clocking in those hours, our brains are not forming those connections that enable us to retain and recall information. As a result, we also end up having difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
A Weakened Immune System
When we get less sleep than we need on a routine basis, our immune system weakens, leaving us open to attack from viruses. We are more likely to get sick when sleep deprivation hits.
Irritability, frustration, quick to anger, and high emotions all come with the territory when we are sleep deprived. The mood changes associated with poor sleep can increase over time and lead to depression or anxiety.
The health risks associated with a bad sleep pattern or lack of sleep can include high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease risk.
How To Survive Exhaustion
Knowing that we may have a broken sleep often sets us up for a poor night and willing rest to come as we count sheep. This can create sleep anxiety and lessen the possibility of sleep. To survive these moments, you can try these simple yet effective tips:
- Create a good sleep environment that will encourage you to sleep as much as possible. For example, lavender pillow sprays, fresh sheets, and a relaxed room can result in a deep sleep.
- Refresh yourself throughout the day by taking naps, finding time to rest, enjoying your favourite music, and reducing stress.
- Keep to a healthy diet that will encourage energy and avoid the temptation of fueling up on caffeine.
- Take turns with your partner and ask for help.
- Watch out for the risks of major sleep deprivation. See your GP if sleep issues become chronic.